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Recently, a frustrated customer decided to cancel his association with Comcast and dialed the customer care number. But nothing could have prepared him for what happened next. He was placed on hold and forced to wait for nearly three-and-a-half hours. After enduring such a lengthy wait, the customer finally decided to hang up and try his luck once again, only to find that the service center had shut its shutters for the day.

At about three-hours into the call, the infuriated customer started capturing his reactions on a video and uploaded it on YouTube with the title, “Comcast put me on hold until they closed.”  The video was an instant rage and recorded 1.8 million views within a short time.

This is an amusing story, as long as you are not either of the two concerned parties. But putting callers on hold is nothing to laugh about, even in scenarios where it can’t be avoided.

Here are some of the statistics that will support this notion:

An average person will spend on less than 1.2 years on hold. And make no mistake that’s a lot of waiting. But are customers ‘OK’ with this arrangement? Not even a bit, say expert. In fact, as per the Small Business Chronicle, after an average of one minute and 55 seconds of hold time, most callers hang up with nearly 34% completely dissociating with the brand. What this shows is that in a technology-driven world, where customers are used to getting information on their fingertips, not being up to pace and providing confusing information will only take you down the drains.

What Research Tells Us?

Several studies over the years have told us the same story again and again; and it is that in recent times there is a steady trend towards a demand for “instant” customer service.

For instance, consider the recent Consumer Reports, which says that 57% of customers had been so frustrated with length of phone customer service that they hung up without a resolution. The study also revealed that, nearly 50% of people had stopped mid-purchase when they didn’t find instant answers. And 75% of customers were highly annoyed when they couldn’t get someone on the phone in a reasonable amount of time.

Arise Study also highlighted the shift towards instant customer service. Arise found that: Almost two-thirds of customers said the maximum that they could wait is two minutes or less and 13% expressed that any wait time is unacceptable.

The numbers don’t change drastically when you break down the responses by gender. As per the Arise study, 29% of men as well as women believe waiting more than two minutes is too long. And 14-15% won’t even call for customer service because they think it will take too long for a representative to answer.

And when you break down the responses to age, Millennial generation is not the one which is least patient. Surprisingly, Generation X and Baby Boomer generation have become progressively less willing to wait, with a whopping 74% of those above 65 not keen to wait even for two minutes.

How These Numbers Impact Your Bottom-line?

“The impact of this latest trend is far reaching,” say a recent American Express Survey. And here are few things that long wait times will affect:

Ability to Upsell: Approximately 75% of customers are willing to spend more with a company that has a reputation for providing quick service.

Customer Retention: Existing customers say that one of the most important factor that drives them to stick with a company is the speed of customer service. They say that they expect customer care representatives to acknowledge this fact and resolve their issues within the shortest possible time. And as per Arise’s findings, customers don’t want to wait at all. If companies are unwilling to mend their ways to meet this expectation, they are more than happy to leave.

New Leads/Customers: As per 51% of customer, speed and efficiency of customer service is one of the biggest factor they consider while choosing a brand. With the rampant use social media and other review sites, it has become extremely easy for today’s customers to see who is exceeding and who is falling behind, say experts.

Detractors: 45% of customers are more than willing to share a negative experience than a positive one, hence every call matters.

Lost Sales: 60% of customers have changed their mind about buying something when their attempt to purchase didn’t translate into prompt customer experience.

Why Are Customers Demanding Instant Customer Service?

Below, we have listed a few fundamental reasons why customers want instant customer service-

Customers Have Other, More Important, Things to Do:

Please, bear in mind that your customers are people too and they have loads of important things to do. If they’re trying to reach you, they are essentially taking time out of their busy schedule to make that phone call. And the longer you keep them on hold, the longer they are kept away from things that are close to their heart. What they want from you is to value their time and being put on hold doesn’t help you accomplish this objective in any way.

Patience is a Virtue, But Not One to Push on Your Customers:

The ancient proverb which says that patience is a virtue, is not something that should be rubbed on your customers.  Largely, the customers’ patience would have almost run out by the time they pick up their phone, dial your toll-free number, navigate through the various IVR options, wait on hold and finally, reach a human operator. Expecting them to show more patience and wait on hold for longer is simply asking for too much.

Customers Are Paying You and Expect Results:

Customers are spending their hard-earned money on your products or services and they expect you to do everything within your prowess to make them feel that they are getting appropriate returns on their investment. Hence the last thing that you should do if you appreciate their efforts and want repeat business, is ask them to wait on hold or be transferred from one person to another to get help.

Waiting On Hold is Just Plain Frustrating:

As customer navigate through the maze of voice menus and hold music, all that they can think about is the issue they are calling about. This repeated thought that you are forcing him to make mountain out of a molehill can add fuel to the fire and complicate the situation. Take a test; have a look at your average hold rate, put yourself in customer’s shoes and start listening to boring music that repeats again and again. Then ask yourself, is it fair to blame the customers for being annoyed and frustrated with the customer service?

Your Customers Know There’s a Better Option:

In a connected world where everything is just a click way, you cannot keep the consumer in darkness about better options for long. In fact, they may be experiencing better customer service and be contemplating a shift to a company that has eliminated hold times through VHT right now.

The Way Out of This Situation

So now that you’ve had a refresher on why making customers wait is not good for your business, what are you doing to improve hold times?

If that’s the case, consider employing the following best practices:

1. Utilize Queue Call-back

One of the easiest way to keep customer waiting time in check is by using queue call-back. This innovative feature lets you call the customer back in the order their initial call was received. And this simply means that the customers no longer have to wait on the line for an available agent and continue with their daily chores until the system calls them back.

2. Use an Automatic Call Distributor

Another popular method that can yield results when it comes to reducing waiting time is the utilization of automatic call distributor. This feature lets you distribute the incoming calls based on a specific criterion that is predetermined and ensure that customers quickly get to an agent who can help them.

Some of the criteria based on which the calls can be distributed include the customers’ geographical location, the time of day the call was placed, and the type of assistance the customer is seeking.

3. Focus on Schedule Adherence

Schedule adherence is one of the most important key performance indicator (KPI) that you should be tracking to keep a tab on customer waiting time.

This KPI lets you assess the workload of each of your agents. It lets you track the time they’re scheduled to work and compare it with their call time to assess their efficiency. By focusing on this KPI, you can make average hold time a priority in your call center.

4. Work on Your Call Scripts

One of the main reason for increased customer waiting time can also be the lengthy interactions that is taking place between your agents and callers. And if this is the case, you must have a hard look at your existing script and train the agents appropriately to ensure that they deliver the desired results within a short time.

Analyse the call logs, especially the long ones, to find out if you need to update the script that your call center agents are using or whether you need to provide additional training to your agents.

The Real-life Example

Being a leading inbound call center service providers in the industry, we have implemented ‘n’ number of steps to provide instant customer service. Some of the most prominent ones include the usage of advanced scenarios to specify how calls are to be distributed. We have also put in place overflow teams to handle peak traffic, made agent skill requirement adjustments and many more. Not just us, we have also ensured that our clients across the globe maintain this customer focus by helping them implement many of the best practices that can keep a tab on customer waiting times. Contact us to now more.